Strong support for WA nurses' strike

June 17, 1998


Strong support for WA nurses' strike

By Sarah Stephen

PERTH — On June 9, 1500 nurses voted unanimously to begin an indefinite strike until their 13% pay claim is granted. Nurses marched to a rally in Forrest Place following the mass meeting, to be greeted by loud cheers from 1000 supporters.


The Maritime Union of Australia and other unions organised contingents to attend the rally. A group of 400 Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union members marched through the Murray Street mall, chanting “We support the nurses”.

Australian Nursing Federation secretary Helen Attrill received deafening applause when she addressed the crowd.

After marching on to Parliament House, the protesters were addressed by health minister Kevin Prince. Outraged boos greeted his accusation that the strikers were hurting the sick.

Prince claimed the Coalition government had put more money into the health system in the past few years, to which someone called out, “for CEOs!”. Prince has called for negotiations.

Labor opposition leader Geoff Gallop was applauded for declaring that “Labor supports your claim and the health system ... Nurses are the pawns in the argument with the federal government over health funding ... The money is there, and it should go towards your pay claim.”

The WA government says it cannot afford to pay the nurses's claim for 13% over two years, which would raise nurses' average wages to around $33,000 a year. From July 1, however, WA MPs will become the highest paid in the country after granting themselves a 2% pay rise on June 5. Backbenchers' salaries will rise to $82,663 — an increase of $1621. Prince is paid $148,793 a year.

In a cheap public relations stunt, Prince broke down crying on radio after picketing nurses refused to let a truck carrying nappies through to King Edward Memorial Hospital. The local media is supporting the government's campaign against the nurses.

Despite this, there is enormous public support for the nurses' action, with some hospital patients also joining the picket lines. 

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